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Gabby Giffords reflects on this moment in time for gun safety measures


The day of the shootings in Uvalde last month, Gabby Giffords tweeted that she was devastated. She asked, how many more children will be killed by guns? Gabby Giffords, of course, knows all too well the effects of gun violence.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: County's going to be working a shooting. We've been informed Gabrielle Giffords is involved.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: The shooting left six people dead...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: ...And injured 13 others, including Gabby Giffords.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Police say he shot 14 others, including the congresswoman, before bystanders tackled him.

KELLY: In 2011, Giffords was serving as a U.S. congresswoman from Arizona when she was shot in the head by a gunman at a constituent event outside Tucson. Since then, Giffords has dedicated her life to calling for action on gun control. She co-founded Giffords, an advocacy group that promotes gun safety. She has recovered from the shooting, but Giffords does not have full use of the right side of her body, and she struggles with speech, with language. She agreed to join us today, along with the executive director of Giffords, Peter Ambler. Her staff suggested that we pose specific questions in a specific way to enable her to give fuller answers, so what you are about to hear is me asking some of those questions and then, when needed, following up and asking additional questions of our own. We began with introductions.

GABBY GIFFORDS: I'm Gabby Giffords. I'm from Tucson, Ariz. January 8, 2011, changed my life forever. I was a congresswoman. I was shot in my head while meeting with my constituents. I couldn't walk. I couldn't talk. I watched gun violence destroy too many lives. After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I said enough is enough. I founded a group called Giffords. We are on a mission to end gun violence.

KELLY: Congresswoman, how are you feeling after the tragedy in Uvalde last month?

GIFFORDS: Too much guns. Too much violence, too much violence, too much violence. Tiny - kids, kids, kids. No bueno.

KELLY: No bueno.

GIFFORDS: No bueno.

KELLY: There have been so many Uvaldes, so many shootings, so many times when nothing has changed. Does this time feel different to you?

GIFFORDS: Better, better, better background checks.

PETER AMBLER: I think something that Gabby reminds us of is that this is a marathon, not a sprint. In much the same way that her recovery has come through the sheer aggregation of hard work, thousands upon thousands of hours of speech therapy and physical therapy, that's what the gun safety movement is as well - you know, millions of advocates across the country working day in and day out to simply try and make the world a better place.

KELLY: I don't have to tell either of you what advocates of gun safety have found so frustrating is that those efforts have continued, as you note, for years, and yet nothing seems to have changed. So I wonder, can you expand on why this time maybe feels different?

GIFFORDS: Better background checks, mentally ill proven protection (ph)...


GIFFORDS: Good stuff.

AMBLER: We're looking at a package that is part of the framework that's released in the Senate that has the support of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans.

KELLY: This is this bipartisan deal on gun safety that it looks like senators have reached. Go on.

AMBLER: That's right. You know, we see several key provisions, including the Extreme Risk Protection Order support provision, which we have seen can have a lifesaving impact. It allows family members, law enforcement, to flag somebody in their community who may be in crisis and temporarily restrain their access to a firearm. And that's vitally important. We're also closing, hopefully, the dating partner loophole. You know, there is this deadly nexus between gun violence and domestic violence. And in fact, many mass shootings, 54% of them, start as a domestic violence incident, as, of course, the one in Uvalde did, as the one in Newtown did. States that have closed this dating partner loophole see significant reductions in homicide. And then, of course, we're focused on this expanded background check on 18- to 20-year-olds or an enhanced background check.

KELLY: Right, up to age 21, yeah, which are - you're right. These are a few of the items that are in this deal, which, again, is far from being law, would not ban assault weapons. It would not create universal background checks. Is it enough, Peter?

AMBLER: It's not enough, but it is a critical first step. It is, I think, narrow in scope but significant in impact, not just on the gun issue but on our ability as a country and as a Congress to make progress on virtually anything. I think Americans feel like their needs are not being met, that their voices are not being heard. You know, millions of American parents living in fear of their kids safety, millions of American children, you know, traumatized by this threat, by these drills on a daily basis. You see the Senate finally compelled to act. These laws, while not nearly as comprehensive as we need, are able to save lives. And they will.

KELLY: We were wrapping up when I asked Gabby Giffords if there was anything I'd missed, anything else she wanted to say. Here's what she told me.

GIFFORDS: Our lives can change so quickly. Mine did when I was shot, but I never gave up hope. I chose to make a new start, to move ahead, to not look back. I'm relearning so many things - how to walk, how to talk. And I'm fighting to make the country safer. It can be so difficult. Losses hurt. Setbacks are hard. But I tell myself, move ahead. I'm finding joy in small things - ride my bike, playing the French horn, going to the gym, laughing with friends. The small things add up. We are living in challenging time, but we are up for the challenge. My own recovery has taken years. Many, many people have helped me along the way, and I've learned so much. I learn when people care for each other and work together, progress is possible. A better world is possible.

KELLY: That is former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Peter Ambler, the executive director of Giffords, the advocacy group she co-founded to promote gun safety. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mind that you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
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